The use of oils to treat health conditions dates back thousands of years. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and Greeks were the first recorded users of oils, and they used them in cosmetics, perfumes, medicines, and healing rituals.
Fast forward to the 20th century and scientists discovered how to extract the active compounds from oils to create drugs that would form the basis of some of the medicines we know today. Today, people are becoming increasingly interested in using natural products for medicinal and cosmetic reasons.
How to Use Essential Oils
There are a few main ways to use essential oils; inhalation, ingestion, and topical application. Whatever method you choose, always consider safety first. Speak to your doctor prior to using essential oils, especially if you have an existing health condition or you are taking medication. Essential oils are natural, but they are very potent and have active compounds that can interact with medicines you are taking.
You can inhale essential oils from a tissue, from your hands, from a bottle, or you can put them in a diffuser. Inhalation is very useful as both the body and brain can benefit from oils when they are used this way. Receptors in the nose carry the oils to the part of the brain that deals with mood, emotion, and memory, so the oils can be used to affect the mood. Some oils have uplifting effects, while some have a calming effect.
Oils can be added to a bowl or basin of hot water, then all you need to do is to sit over the water, with a towel over your head, keeping your eyes closed, and inhale. This is really effective for treating nasal and sinus congestion.
Keeping Your Home Fresh and Clean
You can use a diffuser or you can simply add a few drops of oil to places that tend to get a little bit grimy and smelly, like your waste bin, drains, shower, and toilet.
Some essential oils like citronella and peppermint can repel insects. Leave some oils sprinkled strategically around your home, and make a homemade repellent to apply to your skin before you go outside in the summer. Take care using oils around pets and near where children play.
Dilute your chosen essential oil in a suitable carrier oil that will help it absorb into the skin more easily. Keep oil away from your eyes and ears, and sensitive or broken skin. Massage with essential oils can reduce stress, soothe muscle aches and pains, treat headaches, and much more.
Add 5-7 drops of your chosen essential oil to a carrier oil and add the mixture to your bath. Be sure to mix the oil well with the water so it doesn’t just float on top and cause sensitivity. Always rinse the bath because the oil can leave a slippery film behind.
Other Uses for Essential Oils
Essential oils are also often used in shampoos, perfumes, shower products, and many other natural body care products.
Are essential oils safe?
Essential oils can be very safe and effective if they are used correctly. Here are some things to consider before using essential oils:
The Dosage Instructions
Essential oils used in the wrong dosage can be incredibly toxic to the skin and the organs of the body.
How pure is the oil?
Sometimes oils are mixed with cheaper oils or other synthetic chemicals to dilute them and make them go further. If the composition of oils is altered, they may affect you in ways that you might not expect. Using a pure oil is the only way to ensure it is safe.
How do you intend to use it?
Some oils are safe if you inhale them but can be irritating to the skin, such as the citrus based oils that can cause sensitivity and irritation if the skin is exposed to UV light. Ingestion of oils should only be done under the guidance of a suitably qualified professional.
Will it interact with drugs you’re taking?
Essential oils have active compounds which can act like drugs in the body. These compounds can alter the way that medicines work in the body. Always speak to your doctor before you use essential oils if you’re on medication.
Always dilute oils before applying them to the skin
Applying undiluted oils to the skin can cause sensitivity. This can happen over time even if you have never had a reaction before.
The best thing you can do before using essential oils is to get advice from a qualified person, and research your chosen oils as much as you can. Find out what your chosen oils are suitable for, how to use them, and what dosages to use. Start off by mastering a few oils, using a small amount of oil and always using them with caution. Many people use essential oils to improve their health in the way manmade substances can’t do.
Fertility is the ability to reproduce. Men with normal fertility are able to father children, and fertile women can conceive, carry a baby for 9 months, then give birth.
When we are in our late teens and early 20s, sex drive and fertility levels are high, so conception is easier. As we get older, fertility starts to decline, especially for women after the age of 35. This fact is blamed for the increasing level of fertility problems in developed countries, where women have become more career focused and are leaving motherhood until later in life. Other health issues such as increasing obesity levels globally, have contributed to the rise in fertility problems too.
Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive despite having regular unprotected sex. Infertility can be caused by a number of disorders and lifestyle factors. Sometimes, however, fertility problems can’t be explained, and this is true in around a third of cases. Around 1 in 6 couples have difficulty conceiving.
Infertility in Women
The hormones oestrogen and progesterone control a woman’s monthly reproductive cycle. An egg is released every month which travels into the fallopian tubes. This is ovulation.
In women, most cases of infertility are due to problems with ovulation. Some women don’t ovulate or they only ovulate infrequently.
There can many causes of ovulation problems, such as:
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- problems with the thyroid
- premature ovarian failure, which is where where a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before the age of 40
- Scarring from surgery, which can damage the fallopian tubes or womb
- Fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths in or around the womb. Sometimes they can prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb or block a fallopian tube.
- Endometriosis is a condition where small pieces of the lining of the womb start growing in other places in the body, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes and this can cause fertility problems.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the womb, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection, and left untreated, the fallopian tubes become scarred and damaged which makes it very difficult for an egg to make its way into the womb.
Medicines can affect fertility, these include:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
- chemotherapy medicines sometimes cause ovarian failure
- antipsychotic medicines can cause irregular periods or infertility
Infertility in Men
Male infertility is often caused by abnormal semen, which is the fluid that contains sperm. Problems can include:
- A low sperm count or no sperm at all
- Reduced sperm mobility, which makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg
- Abnormally shaped sperm which find it harder to move
- Damage to a man’s testicles can affect the quality of sperm. This can occur due to:
- Injury to the testicles
- Undescended testicles, which is when one or both testicles has not descended into the scrotum as it should
- Infection such as mumps or gonorrhoea can affect testicular health
Ejaculation problems can make it difficult for a man to release sperm
Hypogonadism, which is a very low level of testosterone, the male sex hormone that is involved in making sperm.
Other Causes of Infertility
Both men and women are their most fertile when they are in their early 20s. Female fertility declines dramatically after the age of 35. Around 1 in 3 couples in which the woman is over the age of 35 have fertility problems. This increases to 2/3 when the woman is over 40. Male fertility gradually declines from the age of 40, though men can technically father children well into their 80’s.
Studies have shown that women who smoke take longer to get pregnant. Research has found that toxic chemicals in cigarettes can damage the lining of the fallopian tubes, which help to carry the egg from the ovary to the womb. Partners of men who smoke also have a reduced chance of conceiving as smoking can reduce the amount of sperm produced and their motility.
Alcohol can reduce fertility in both men and women. It is not yet completely understood exactly how alcohol affects fertility, but studies have found that drinking alcohol reduces the chances of a woman conceiving. In men, heavy drinking may affect sperm quality.
An egg is fertilized when a man’s sperm meets the egg around the time of ovulation, which is when the egg is released from the ovaries. Women usually ovulate once during each reproductive cycle, and the most likely time for getting pregnant is 14 days before a period.
Worry and tension can cause hormonal changes in the body, which can lead to fertility problems.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes and uterus, which leads to infertility. Infections like gonorrhoea can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease and reduces fertility in men as well.
Unhealthy Body Weight
If you’re very underweight or overweight it can cause problems with fertility.
How to Boost Fertility
Having sex every 2-3 days gives you the best chance of conceiving. Doctors say you don’t need to aim to have sex in an ‘ovulation window’, which is biologically the most likely time that a woman will conceive.
Avoid smoking. This can damage a man’s sperm, and women who smoke take longer to get pregnant.
Testicles should be kept 1-2 degrees cooler than the rest of a man’s body, so avoid wearing tight or restrictive underwear or clothes.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being under or overweight can affect fertility.
Keep as healthy as possible; eat a good diet, take plenty of exercise, and deal with stress.
Unexplained infertility accounts for around a quarter of cases of infertility. This is where no medical cause can be identified in either the woman or man.
If a cause for your fertility problems hasn’t been identified, talk to your doctor about the options that are open to you.
IVF fertility treatment is usually offered to women who haven’t been able to get pregnant within 2 years where no cause has been identified.
When to See Your Doctor
See your doctor if you haven’t conceived after 1 year of trying.
You should see your doctor sooner however if:
You are a woman aged 36 or over, because the decline in fertility increases dramatically when a woman reaches her mid-30’s
If you have any reason to be concerned about your fertility, such as if you have been treated for cancer or you think you have a sexually transmitted infection
Fertility tests can take time to complete and because female fertility decreases rapidly with age, so it’s best to make an appointment to see your doctor as early as possible
Your doctor will be then carry out an assessment to check for things that may be causing your fertility problems and advise you about what your options are.
It’s always best for both partners to visit their doctor as fertility problems can affect a man or a woman, or sometimes both.
Trying to conceive can be an emotional journey, so it’s important for each partner to support each other as much as possible.
The currently available fertility treatments include:
medication, which treats lack of regular ovulation
surgical procedures such as treatment for endometriosis, repair of the fallopian tubes, or removal of scarring in the womb can restore reproductive function.
assisted conception, which might be artificial insemination or IVF (in-vitro fertilisation)
The treatment you will be offered will depend on what’s causing your fertility problems and what’s available from the health services in your area.
Private treatment is also available, but it can be prohibitively expensive and there’s no guarantee it will be successful.
There are several essential oils that may be able to boost fertility:
This oil is very effective for balancing hormones and regulating the menstrual cycle. It is also calming, so it can reduce stress which can affect fertility. For women who have endometriosis, Geranium may be especially beneficial.
This oil is very effective when mixed with a carrier oil such as almond oil and applied topically to the skin. It can help to regulate the menstrual cycle, and is even suitable for a baby’s skin (when diluted) when you have had your bundle of joy!
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties, which may be able to reduce the discomfort caused by cysts or fibroids, which can cause infertility.
Yarrow is a great detox oil. It helps to relieve pelvic inflammation and it is also beneficial for the health of the digestive system and urinary tract.
This oil boosts your oestrogen levels, so it helps your body to regulate reproductive hormones naturally. It also has the welcome effect of being an aphrodisiac, so this can improve the regularity and the enjoyment of sex which will improve the chances of conception. This oil can also help with male infertility, by treating hormone imbalances and impotence.
Ginger oil has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also promotes healthy digestion and healthy circulation.
This oil helps to relax the uterus and regulate your menstrual cycle. It also boosts libido and promotes normal healthy cervical mucus. Don’t use this oil after ovulation however, because it’s not safe for use during pregnancy.
This oil helps to balance your hormones and improves hormonal health and normal function overall. It is most effective when used during the first part of your menstrual cycle to regulate menstruation and improve hormonal functioning. This is another oil that is not safe to use during pregnancy.
This oil has a very pleasant sweet smell and it has aphrodisiac qualities. It also regulates the menstrual cycle by supporting the function of the endocrine system, which are the glands responsible for producing hormones at their normal levels.